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The Green Life: Trendsetter

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April 24, 2008


Jeff Robinson: Product coordinator, Free Geek

Every year about 500 tons of old and broken computers wind up at Free Geek, a recycling cooperative in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of volunteers, from nerds to the needy, help reassemble the parts into working machines, and no wonder, since 24 hours of labor earns volunteers a free PC. Jeff Robinson, 33, is one of 14 members of the collective that runs Free Geek. Begun in 2000 in a living room, the enterprise now occupies a warehouse and has spawned nine other Free Geeks, from Arkansas to Vancouver, British Columbia. freegeek.org

Q: What's it like to work at Free Geek?

A: It's a crazy atmosphere. We have retirees who have had great jobs standing next to someone who's never used a computer before, helping each other out.

Q: What happens to the computers that come through your door?

A:Roughly 20 percent are immediately reusable, ready to rebuild or resell. The other 80 percent need to be recycled.

Q:Does an operation like this really make a difference?

A:Rather than have computers go to a landfill, last month we gave away 100 and sold 100, and they're going back into the community. The difference is environmental, economic, and educational.

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